Comparative Guts

Close this search box.

Tupilak carving

Tupilak carving, ivory, Greenland. Before 1962.
Photo: Ole Woldbye, Danish Arctic Institute

A tupilak, today a tourist object and awkwardly considered to have been an auspicious talisman, was an object meant to do nothing but harm. Most Tupilaks were put together by bones from various animals, stuffed with sod and wrapped up in skin, to be sent to a personal enemy, who, mistaking it for a seal at sea, would harpoon the tupilak  and be drown. The tupilak  could kill in other ways as well. But to create a tupilak and sending it along in order to kill an enemy was a risky affair, for one’s opponent may be stronger in magic means than the maker, and return the tupilak. If so, the recurrent tupilak  would either turn the maker insane or make him fatally sick, or kill him by eating his or her entrails.